Over the past few years, Apple COO Tim Cook has taken on an increasingly greater public role at Apple, especially in light of the fact that Steve Jobs has consistently handed Cook the reigns when he has to take time away from the company to deal with medical issues.
But who is Tim Cook?
Known as an extremely hardworking, effective, and efficient executive, Cook in many ways embodies the opposite of Jobs’ in-your-face and smooth talking persona. So while we may not know much about Tim Cook, the following speech he gave during Auburn University’s 2010 Spring Commencement includes some interesting details that shed some light on how Cook would up at Apple, why he thinks working at Apple was the most important decision of his life, and why he decided to jump ship for Apple just 5 minutes into his job interview with Steve Jobs. The pertinent portion of the speech begins at the 3:25 mark though we’ve transcribed all of the Apple-centric parts below for your reading enjoyment.
“I stand before you with a deep sense of humility. Both because of how i got here and who is here. I am where I am in life because my parents sacrificed more than they should have, because of teachers, professors, friends and mentors who cared more than they had to, and because of Steve Jobs and Apple who have provided me the opportunity to engage in truly meaningful work every day for over 12 years.
My most significant discovery so far in my life was the result of one single decision, my decision to join Apple. Working at Apple was never in any plan that I outlined for myself, but was without a doubt the best decision that I ever made…
The decision to come to Apple which I made in early 1998 was not so obvious. Since most of you graduates were 10 years old at the time, you may not realize that the Apple in early 1998 was very different than the Apple of today. In 1998 there was no iPad or iMac or iPhone. There wasn’t even an iPod – I know it’s hard to imagine life without iPods!
While Apple did make Macs, the company had been losing sales for years and was commonly considered to be on the verge of extinction. Only a few months before I accepted the job at Apple, Michael Dell, the founder and CEO of Dell Computer, was publicly asked what he would do to fix Apple – and he responded, I’d shut it down and give the money back to the shareholders.
In making this statement, what distinguished Michael Dell was only that he had the courage to say what so many others believed. So Apple was in a very different place than it is today and my employer at the time, Compaq Computers, was the largest personal computer company in the world. Not only was Compaq performing much better than Apple, it was headquartered in Texas, and closer to Auburn football.
Any purely rational consideration of cost and benefits lined up in Compaq’s favor, and the people who knew me best advised me to stay at Compaq. One CEO I consulted felt so strongly about it he told me I would be a fool to leave Compaq for Apple.
In making my decision to come to Apple, I had to think beyond my train as an engine. Engineers are trained to make decisions analytically and largely without emotion. When it comes to a decision between alternatives, we enumerate the cost and benefits and decide which one is better. But there are times in our lives when the careful consideration of costs and benefits just doesn’t’ seem like the right way to make a decision. There are times in all of our lives when our reliance on gut or intuition just seems more appropriate when a particular course of action just feels right, and interestingly, I’ve discovered, it’s that in facing life’s more important decisions, intuition seems the most indispensable to getting it right…
On that day, in early 1998, I listened to my intuition. Not the left side of my brain, or for that matter, even the people who knew me best. It’s hard to know why I listened. Im not even sure why I know today, but no more than 5 minutes into my initial interview with Steve, I wanted to throw caution and logic to the wind and join Apple. My intuition already knew that joining Apple was a once in a lifetime opportunity to work for the creative genius and to be on the executive team that could resurrect a great American company.
I have the good fortune to be surrounded by some brilliant intuitive thinkers who create the most elegant and extraordinary products in the world. For all of us, intuition is not a substitute for rigorous thinking and hard work, it is simply the lead in. We never take short cuts, we attend to every detail. We follow where curiosity leads aware that the journey may be longer, but will ultimately be more worthwhile. We take risks knowing that risks will sometimes result in failure, but without the possibility of failure, there is no possibility of success…”